In this fifteen-page poem, Wilbert Snow relates trials of Crump Hook and his sidekick, lazy Joe, who were medically turned-down (hernia, weak heart) for military service during World War One and became ill-fated rum runners on Maine coastal waters.
When war broke out in “Seventeen
The Flanders” slaughter house had been
So deftly flashed on Western eyes
By propaganda’s dark disguise
That China’s thousand warless years
Rang like cries of bayoneteers
Against our profiteering joy
And songs like “Didn’t Raise My Boy.”
Crump Hook decided not to go,
Likewise his sidekick, lazy Joe.
But when they saw each buck in place
With clean brown suit and clean brown face,
And saw good dogs forsake the city
For barracks life austere and gritty;
And was the light that glittered through
Girls’ eyes on Thursday’s gay review;
And found themselves despised and lonely
With old rheumatic cripples only.
Their marching feet would not keep still
Until they joined the hunt for Kaiser Bill.
The draft-board patriots looked amazed
As on these two old bums they gazed;
And one from his vest-pocket dug
A blackened, lint-strewn, five-cent plug,
And gave to Crump with gesture free
To vent his magnanimity.
The doctor, with a stethoscope,
Came out and scanned these dregs of hope;
Forlornly muttered, “This way, boys,”
And like two convicts sick for noise
They took ten steps and hear their doom
Pronounced by Science; Oh, the gloom
That weighed them down as they walked out
And felt the world sink round about
Their eyes as they moved off to impart
That one had hernia, one weak heart.
At this point in the poem Crump and Joe turn to illegal run running and are pursued by the sheriff on Maine waters.